Fairly smooth start to school year in capital city

Fairly smooth start to school year in capital city

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

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Outside of a shortage of water and teachers at some schools, the new academic year was off to a fairly smooth start in the capital city yesterday.

At St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) on Spanish Town Road, Principal Worrel Hibbert said that water supply has been intermittent, prompting a request for additional tanks from the education ministry. He pointed out that the water shortage could be devastating for the school, given its size, and the fact that it operates poultry and vegetable farms.

Hibbert also said the staff was aware of the fact that commuting would be an issue for some students, especially those who had to traverse the former Three Miles area. “There were some delays for students coming from that side...we also have to be cognisant of the fact that we are in a state of [public] emergency,” he said.

Notwithstanding the challenges, there were no significant administrative hiccups at STATHS which, being a vocational technical school, has the capability to make its own furniture.

Hibbert said, too, that some gaps had been identified but there would be no rush to report them until the student intake is settled.

He noted also that in addition to textbooks from the ministry, the school received donations from junior high schools, which are transitioning to primary schools.

At Tivoli Gardens High there were no water woes and the school, according to Principal Marvin Johnson, is making advancements in academic performance.

“Academically we have done pretty well. We have successes in the skill areas. All our students who sat the skills exams passed; our sixth form programme did pretty well we got 100 per cent in entrepreneurship skills [and] in the high 90s for management of business. The CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) areas, we need to improve, but it's a work in progress,” Johnson said.

“Tivoli Gardens will become a school of choice, that's our aim,” the principal vowed.

He noted that with orientation completed last week, students are being engaged. “We have a little logistical issue to work out in terms of our APSE (Alternative Pathways to Secondary Education) classes, and that is being dealt with as we speak. By tomorrow, it should be full engagement in the classroom,” he said.

Johnson added that a request has been made to the education ministry for more Grade Seven textbooks.

At Kingston High in Central Kingston, Principal Andrea Gray-Dwyer told the Jamaica Observer that “Some teachers resigned just at the ending of August and some of those posts have not yet been filled. We are hoping that we will get some of those filled soon. It seems as if it's an islandwide exodus of some of our teachers. What is sad is that the teachers didn't give us the notification. I'm hoping that we will get some teachers, [but] if not, some suggestions are being made for the fourth-year students to be engaged by giving them a stipend to assist”.

Meanwhile, she said the school is grappling with water issues, but should be able to satisfy the demand over the next few weeks. “As we speak I'm expecting a delivery from the NWC (National Water Commission). We have also made arrangements with a private provider in the event that the NWC is not able to supply. So, from 11 last night (Sunday night) we were up with senior education officers to ensure that all is in place,” she outlined.

Gray-Dwyer said the school had received its second tranche of budgetary support from the ministry, which she described as a “step in the right direction”, as usually there would be a lull between the delivery of the first and second tranches.

She said the main objective for the new school year is to increase literacy levels. “Instead of repeating students we are, through the APSE, acquiring extra support so that we can improve those levels.”

The school, she added, will also continue its outstanding performance in Technical and Vocational Education and Training through a partnership with City and Guilds for on-the-job certification.

For Jesse Ripoll Primary on South Camp Road, 2019 marks 40 years of existence. Vice-Principal Raphael Davis said day one of the 2019/20 academic year was a good one for the school and its stakeholders.

“We have 100 per cent staff members reporting. Being the first day of school I think we started off very well; we have water, we thank God for that (and) we got our books from the ministry, not all, but we got some. We are using this week for orientation,” he outlined.

At Mico Pactising Primary and Junior High School in the Cross Roads area Principal Geraldine Allen and Bursar Fiona Jones-Anderson agreed that water supply is a pressing challenge for the school.

A delivery ordered from Thursday last week had only just arrived at the school while they were speaking with our news team. “We have tanks; we just don't have water,” Allen remarked.

She said however that up to yesterday administrators had been spared the trouble of having to dismiss classes due to the water shortage, which has been a nagging problem prior to the summer holidays. However, forward-planning has been a saving grace for the school in dealing with the water shortage.

Allen said that textbooks and furniture had not yet arrived, but that the ministry had advised that the school could rent books in the interim.

According to the education ministry, 1,000 public infant, primary and secondary schools welcomed almost 500,000 students and teachers for the 2019/20 school year yesterday.

Portfolio minister Karl Samuda said in a message on Sunday that the ministry will be providing a total of $11 billion to schools to underwrite their operational expenses, including lunches for students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.

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